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Maker of Product Linked to Hair Loss Kept Safety Studies Secret

Thursday, January 7, 2016

As more than 17,000 customers complained to Guthy-Renker about severe hair loss and baldness after using its WEN by Chaz Dean cleansing conditioner, the company was quietly conducting numerous safety studies, according to federal court documents.

What did those studies conclude? We at EWG want to know — and so do the many people who say they were injured — but as far as we know, Guthy-Renker has not disclosed the results of its safety studies to the federal Food and Drug Administration or the public. 

We know about the existence of the secret safety studies because of documents filed in a class action suit brought against Guthy-Renker in federal court in Los Angeles. But the woefully weak and outdated federal law that governs the personal care products industry does not require companies like Guthy-Renker to inform the FDA about customer complaints or their own health and safety studies.

Cosmetics manufacturers can use virtually any ingredients without first making sure their products are safe. They can leave consumers and federal regulators in the dark.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have proposed a bill to fix this massive loophole in federal law. Their Personal Care Products Safety Act would require cosmetics makers to disclose their products’ ingredients and reports of adverse health events to the FDA. They would have to hand over internal studies showing potential health effects.

The FDA would be empowered to recall dangerous products and to require specific labeling and warnings for products that contain ingredients not suitable for everyone.

EWG first reported about the hair loss complaints last month and also revealed that Chaz Dean’s WEN product line contains synthetic chemicals, including known allergens, even though his marketing materials suggest that the products are naturally derived from ingredients found in his garden.

The controversy swirling around Guthy-Renker is a cautionary tale from an industry that operates with almost no oversight by federal health officials. Until a remedy like the Feinstein-Collins proposal is the law of the land, American consumers will remain at risk from the unchecked use of chemicals in personal care and cosmetics products.

 

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